Luis A. Vera, O.S.A.
Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine
Bronx, New York
2 Kings 5:14-17
2 Tim 2:8-13
At this time in our country great debates are taking place as different senators and other politicians try to look for what they call a just immigration reform. People have different ideas about how to treat “foreigners.” Many question their rights or lack of them. Today, our Scriptures help us turn toward the foreigner or the outsider. Certainly the first reading and the Gospel turn our attention upon the salvation and faith of the “foreigner” or the outsider, the one who lives on the fringe, the edge of society. Scriptures help us turn toward the forgotten man or woman, the one who is hopeless, the outcast and the no-person.
Today we have a Samaritan leper! While lepers were rejected by “normal” people in society, Samaritans would have been despised even by other lepers. But maybe this isolation helped this Samaritan leper to go deeper within himself to find a great sense of gratefulness for what was done to him, something the others were not able to do.
But who are the foreigners among us? Who are those we don’t even acknowledge as human beings? Who are the ones who are living in the fringe of society or the ones who have been pushed sometimes by us to live with less dignity? As Christians, we are called to serve one another. This is a basic commandment. We are called to serve all peoples as Jesus did, no matter if they are documented or undocumented, foreigners or locals. We are called to serve and love all peoples, especially the anawim, the poor and the foreigner in our midst and we are called to be people of forgiveness, people of reconciliation, people who do not ask for documents before we give a hand to someone in need. The Gospel once again is radical and calls us to live in a radical manner.
Most of us take things for granted because most of us have become complacent. Maybe we need to learn from the leper how to be grateful, how to have a grateful heart. Usually the grateful person does not take anything for granted. They have an openness to see what is being done for them. They can discover and see what most of us overlook: the things that very often are simple, the things we take for granted. The leper came back “glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him” and Naaman declared that his cure showed that “there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”
These foreigners challenge us to move beyond ourselves and think as Jesus thinks, they challenge us to put on the mind of Christ.
Who is the stranger among us? Who is the one we call “foreigner?” Perhaps we are afraid to answer these questions because once we locate this man or woman or child, we will have to act differently. They will place demands upon us and call us to be Christ-like. They will upset our neat schedules, and our consciences will be disturbed, they will require our attention and more than that – they will require our love. They may even bring us to shame. They may even help us to be grateful for what we have and challenge us to treat them with the dignity of a child of God.
As we gather around this Table of Plenty, may we recognize that our Lord was also a stranger in a strange land. May we continue building up the City of God here and today. May the bread we break and cup we share, remind us that we need to be grateful for what we have and give praise and thanks to a God who calls us to recognize and welcome the stranger among us.